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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Matching speakers to the Yamaha R300 receiver

So, in response to a question regarding good speakers for the Yamaha R-300, I wanted to post a picture of it paired with an old pair of B&W DM 600i speakers that I got for very little money at the thrift store (another top ten find, which is getting harder to do all of the time).  I did have to replace the jumpers for the set of dual binding posts that permit bi-wiring, as the originals had disappeared, and the cabinet vinyl is a little rough, but otherwise these speakers are in great condition.  I wound up buying the new jumper cables from Maze Audio, who can be found here:


The jumpers are of super high quality and I strongly recommend them.  The DM600i have sounded very good with anything I own, and the R-300 is no exception.  I always find myself looking at DM series auctions on Ebay, as the sound of these speakers as held up very well over time.  This blog is too small in reach to impact on prices I would imagine, so I would strongly recommend looking into a pair of these or others in the DM series while they can still be found in decent condition for not too much money.  Please let me know if you also have experience with these speakers, or decide to take the plunge and get them for yourself.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Return of the Yamaha R 300 Receiver

It's back!  The tuner back light bulb is out however, so that will require some sorting . . . 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Cerwin Vega AT-10 repair

I've been super busy working with the editor on the sequel to Chermpf and have not had too much time to play with stereo.  I hope everyone in the US had a very nice Thanksgiving.  Over the holiday weekend, my wife was at her sister's house and it turns out that they got new furniture and no longer had room for these:

A pair of Cerwin Vega AT-10 of unknown origin.  Interestingly, I had a pair of Cerwin Vega AT-8 while in college.  They were given to me as a gift from a super nice amazing awesome person who shall remain anonymous, and I am pretty sure that they were purchased at the now defunct electronics store known as Silo in Western New York.  The AT-8s were great speakers, they played crazy loud on 25 or 30 watts of power and they were nigh on indestructible.  I wouldn't call them the last word in transparency, but they were great for Led Zeppelin.  This particular pair of AT-10 have suffered from foam surround rot due to the ravages of time, but other than that are in pretty nice shape.  A couple of dings and the mesh on the midranges is dented but that's what it's there for- to protect the cones.  So I decided to order a repair kit from Simply Speakers on Ebay.  under $25 and super fast shipping.

You can see that the kit came with two nice replacement surrounds in the Cerwin Vega hot pink that we all know and love.  Next, I set about removing and cleaning up the woofers by purging them of all the rotted foam and old glue.  The only hitch was that the negative speaker lead required some wrangling to remove.

It's messy work and labor intensive.  It took about two hours to clean up one woofer.  Junior was kind enough to help:

I finished the first one this afternoon.  It was challenging to get the speaker aligned properly so that there was no rubbing in the back of the cone near the voice coil, and I'm still not sure i got it right.  The folks at Simply Speakers recommend doing the adjustment by hand, but I could not get a good grip on the dome at the center of the cone, which might have made the job easier.  Nonetheless, I tested repair number one on the NAD/Sony 605ESD this evening and all went well.  I'll tackle the second one sometime during the week,

The question is, what the heck will I do with them once they are fixed?


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Yamaha A-S2000 Integrated Amplifier and Dynaudio Focus 220

A few weeks ago, I was at D.'s house listening to his Marantz CD player and Wharfedale bookshelves.  We also listened to the Dynaudio Excite 14s, all through the refurbished NAD C326BEE I picked up from Spearit for a song.  Unfortunately, I did a terrible job of note taking, and the pictures weren't very good either.  In fact, it may be time for a new cell phone just to upgrade my camera.  Overall I think the sound was very good, but we certainly did not get the Excite 14s dialed in properly.  In fairness to the Excites I keep expecting to hear Focus 110 or Focus 140 sound out of them because they are all roughly the same size, but there is really no comparison- the Focus series was a far superior speaker, both in bass output and quality, along with the greater smoothness of the midrange.  The Excites are less expensive, and you get a lot of the Dynaudio sound with them, so they are still an excellent buy, especially if you can find them on sale.  All that being said, I will need to set up another get together and organize myself better to make sure I get useful information to write about.  Sometimes one gets wrapped up just listening.

  More recently however, I spent some quality time with my primary setup, which is comprised of a Yamaha A-S2000 integrated amplifier, a Yamaha CD-S2000 SACD player and Dynaudio Focus 220 (first version) using a variety of Audio Quest and Kimber interconnects and speaker cable.  Thoughts about selling the amp triggered the listening session.

I bought the amp as B-stock five years ago (that approaches a record for holding an amp that long for me), at a very good price, $1,099.  There seems to be some confusion about B-stock items, but equipment with that label can be returns, refurbs or scratch and dent from my experience.  In the case of my A-S2000, there was not a mark on the unit, but the aluminum face of the remote has a scratch.  Given the abuse that remotes take, this is a non-issue for me.  By contrast, the CD-S2000 I bought also B-stock for $695 has a mark on the face plate.  It's hard to notice, and I would still prefer it not be there, but at such a deep discount I can live with it.  More about the SACD player in a future post.  The only indicator that the amp is a B-stock unit, is a small sticker on the rear panel and the inclusion of B-stock warranty information in the box.  I have never compared it to another A-S2000, so I can't say if mine is out of the ordinary in any other way.

As you can see, I tend to use either a PS Audio or an Audioquest power cord with the amp, as they look very nice.  I have never conducted a listening comparison with replacement power cords, maybe I will in the future.  Please drop me a line if you have any insight about them. Also shown is the remote for the CD-S2000.

The A-S2000 manual opens with a brief overview of Yamaha's history in Hi-Fi since 1920 (complete with picture of piano), and mentions such iconic products such as the NS-20, NS-1000M and NS-10M monitor speakers, A-1 integrated amplifier and MX-10000 and CX-10000 separates, all great stuff.  The first thing that the manual tells you about the A-S2000 is that it is a "full floating balanced circuit design . . .  that achieves complete symmetry and permits full balanced transmission (amplification) from the input jack to just before the speaker jack" and continues on to tell us that the A-S2000 is " . . . the world's first integrated amplifier to offer full stage balanced transmission, combining high power output with good sound texture and outstanding S/N performance."

Sound texture?  Hm.  Well, here is what they are going on about:

I am not an engineer, so regarding the impact of this circuit design on performance, permit me to quote from Steve Holdings' test/review for Australian Hi-Fi magazine (a copy of which came with my amp):

"Yamaha's use of balanced circuitry seems to have paid off when you look at the signal-to-noise results, because the IHF A-weighted figure came in at 98dB referenced to just one watt, which is exceptional for an integrated amplifier.  Likewise, the unweighted S/N ratio referenced to rated output broke the three digit barrier, coming in at 101dB . . . I also suspect the balanced circuit helped with the excellent channel separation figures: 94dB at 1KHz is a terrific result . . . "

From a listening perspective, these words translate into an "A+" for the turn the volume up with nothing playing and listen for noise test, and contributes to the way music with sudden, forte beginnings simply explodes out of the speakers and can shock the casual listener.  This is a very quiet amplifier.

The Dynaudio Focus 220 is a floor stander, and in the world of speakers it is probably on the medium or medium small size.  Nonetheless in a 12 by 20 room, they can easily be overpowering, and they are provided with foam plugs to help tune the bass port.  With a Marantz AVR or with the Marantz 8801 and 7055 pre/pro multi channel amp combo, the bass of these speakers can be a little boomy, and I have to be careful with room placement.  I do not find that to be the case at all with the Yamaha.  The bass is always strong and tightly controlled, appearing only when it is called for.  A fan of more bass-heavy music might even find the Yamaha/Dynaudio combo too polite.  I find it wonderful for energetic piano music, and live and small set percussion.  I wish I had the expertise to comment in more detail on this design choice by Yamaha, but alas I do not.  I can say that the entire unit is massively over built, a thick front panel, large, high quality speaker binding posts, aluminum switches, etc.  perfect for an eighties Sony ES junkie.  What I believe is that the attention to detail and the excess in design are not merely cosmetic but plays out within the circuit design as well.

The front panel is almost spartan, black with the trademark Yamaha font in white (it looked identical on my vintage R300, which was far from a flagship).  The headphone jack has its' own trim control, which is great, and right next door is the speaker selector knob.  The A+B is also labelled for bi-wiring, which Dynaudios do not permit, but I might try with an older pair of B&Ws at some point.

The Bass, treble and balance switches are old school Yamaha.  they are out of the circuit when set at twelve o'clock, and when you turn them, there is an audible click before you hear their effects (which are quite subtle in the case of bass and treble). The input selector is treated to a tiny, tiny array of amber lights indicating you have selected phono, tuner, CD, CD balanced, line 1, line 2 or main direct.  Below is the audio mute switch (providing 20dB of attenuation), and the cartridge selector switch.  I use an Ortofon Red MM on my Rega, so that switch doesn't get much use. 

And now we get to the one point where I have a quibble with this amp, and I am afraid that for me it is a major one.  For some readers it may seem silly.  the Volume knob is large and aluminum,  and it moves smoothly by motor in response to the remote.  There is no indicator as to its position other than a small notch in the black surface that is virtually impossible to see.  I wish Yamaha had used one of those tiny amber lights to indicate the volume position.  Unfortunately not, so adjustments made in low light are mostly guesswork.  Since my listening room does not have overhead lighting and only one window, it is low light most of the time.  It's a shame, and I see it hasn't been changed with the newer, metered models of the amplifier.  

The A-S2000 has fantastic wood side panels, but one may wish to consider a silver model, which makes the wood more prominent.  If you don't care for the wood look, go with black as in most conditions you hardly know they are there. There is also a neat trick in the feet.  There is a magnetized spike that fits into a recess on the bottom of each foot, so you can choose to mount the amplifier spiked to your stand or flat, simply by flipping the spike over in its recess.  Get help doing so however, as the amplifier is very heavy, over 50 lbs. I have managed not to ding mine moving it around, but I do not undertake the task casually.  

The rear panel has a full complement of very high quality connections.  Cables connect with authority, and I don't worry about breaking a connection when I switch.  I have a short .5 meter run of Kimber XLRs (The A-S2000 is 2:hot/left, 1:ground/right) connecting the CD-S2000 (or Sony SCD-XA5400 ES when it is in rotation), and I do not worry about cats pulling them out.  If you have cats you know this problem.  If you have cats and use equipment needing HDMI cable connectionss (which have inherently crappy connections) there is a hotline you can call.  The speaker binding posts are brass, and they do oxidize, so they need to be cleaned (which reminds me to do that).  They are large enough to grab without looking directly at them and they have no sharp edges.  All good things.

The remote is just fine.  It is perfectly functional, and does not feel particularly cheap, but at the same time there is nothing exciting about it either functionally or in a tactile sense.  I would feel a bit more underwhelmed by it if I were writing about it in the context of a $7000 A-S3000, that's for sure.

The A-S2000 starts up very quickly, no prolonged wait time, such as I experience with my Marantz amplifiers.  I have been told that the Yamaha draws a lot of juice even at idle, so if you have green considerations you may wish to investigate this further.  The amp is rated to produce 90 watts into 8 ohms from 20Hz to 20KHz at 0.02% THD, increasing to 150 watts with a 4 ohm load.  The manual indicates it has 0,67dB of dynamic headroom and a maximum output power of 160 watts ( 4 ohms, 1KHz, 0,7% THD).  The damping factor at 1kHz 0.02% THD is claimed to be 160, which is also reminiscent of some of my favorite Sony ES super amps from the eighties.  I have to look up what the TA-F555 ES was when I get a chance. 

So with the wife away for the weekend, I poured a shot and a half of bourbon into a glass with just the right amount of ice, and sat down to listen.  I knew all of the above stuff, as I've had the amp as my primary for five years, and I have listened to it countless times.  But I was looking for some key audio/literary experiences to pass on to you what I think this amp sounds like in this set up.  So compared to the other things I have in the house, the A-S2000 does not sound like the NAD C326BEE, nor does it sound like the Marantz AV set up I mentioned above.  Nor does it sound like the Sony STR-GX90ES, although it is closer to that one.  I think above all, the amp is really adding so much less to the signal than I am used to hearing in lesser gear, that I would have to say the operative word to use is "clean."  For example, I told myself that I have heard Led Zeppelin III or Houses of the Holy sound better on these speakers, but that is only true only because I was using an amp that wasn't as good at the time so I probably had a bit more to drink in order to get past some of the more unfortunate aspects of those recordings and got to that magical boozed-up point where I didn't care about all the added noise.  Not so with the A-S2000.  I got really drawn into the recording of "Since I've Been Loving You" because of the emptiness that surrounded each individual aspect of the recording.  And on other tracks, that same lack of grunge coming from post-recording electronics helped me to appreciate the way Bonham and Plant played against and with one another so well.  Switching to Marcus Roberts "Deep in the Shed," a go to test disc for me, the Yamaha reproduced the dynamics of the percussion just effortlessly, and I don't recall having the same feeling when we last listened to that disc at D.'s house.  Different set up of course, and different room, but that is how most of us experience stereo- in various manifestations.  The A-S2000 is clean, natural and effortless.  It is to my ears, completely without gimmicks.  

So bottom line, since I am not confident that I can get a pair of Sony TA-N77 ES amps in immaculate condition and maintain them for any realistic price, which also rules out Accuphase and Esoteric, I think I am in the right place with the A-S2000.  I think that for someone with my tastes (notice I have not mentioned McIntosh, marantz integrated or Denon, not that they are bad, just not for me), it is a wonderful thing that Yamaha has taken the time to bring these amps to life.  I believe that the A-S2000 is no longer being made and has been replaced by the A-S2100 and 3100, which are metered, which is very cool, but more expensive which is not.  I think they also use toroidal power supplies, which is different from the original A-S2000.  So am I selling mine?  No, at least not yet.  At $1,099 I'm unlikely to find something better, so the answer is probably not, even though the lack of an indicator on the volume knob makes me nuts.  I might just start saving my pennies for a 3100 though! 



Monday, August 15, 2016

Yamaha A-S2000 integrated amplifier

Earlier this summer, we had a get together at D.'s place and listened to his Wharfdale's, and my Dynaudio Excite 14s through the NAD 326BEE.  Foolishly I did not take notes, and the pictures I took were kinda weak.  So, we are hoping to get together again this weekend and see how things go.  We will be at my place this time, so we will also run the Yamaha A-S2000 integrated through its paces.  The Yamaha is NOT easily transportable, so D. has not yet heard it in any extended listening.  I have had the amp a few years now, and I plan after this listening session to do a more complete write up.  Why?  Because I said I would, and because I like the amp so much I am considering selling it . . . 

At any rate, I will do something akin to what I wrote for the NAD 3125 regardless if I decide to sell it or keep it.  I'm going to check out the Parasound Halo integrated as I have heard good things, and it has a few features that I would certainly make use of.  Attached are some pictures from a previous set up.  Stay tuned.  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Akai HX-1 and Sony TC-WE605S tape decks

I may have mentioned that my Sony TC-RX606ES has died (Motor.), and have been hunting for a replacement.  Why do I need another cassette deck?  If you are asking then you may wish to re-evaluate your reading this post in the first place.  I came across this thing for $5 at a thrift store, and . . . it works!  I got some decent rock play back although the wow and flutter is noticeable on quieter stuff.

Short term solution, though as it certainly does not look as though it has been serviced.  It shall live in my office where numerous students will ask what it is (is that a VCR?  No, seriously, it got asked).   More seriously, I bought a great Sony TC-WE605ES refurb for very little money from a very nice fellow named Stephen Goss on EBay:

Which short of having back lit cassette wells is pretty much exactly what I needed.  The question now is whether or not to repair the 606 (Mr. Goss does just such work- check him out on EBay).  I was looking at some other decks and maybe even a Nakamichi . Althoguh there have been quite a few Sony 850s on EBay as of late.  In other news, I spent some time listening to a Hsu subwoofer (whoa), but forgot to take pictures.  As awesome as the sub was, it's not for me.  The music i listen to just wouldn't benefit enough to devote the listening room real estate.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Summer audio stuff

I've been so busy working on Meepcha and the Lost One Hundred which is the sequel to Chermpf, if you haven't had a chance to check it out:


that I haven't had a chance to write about some summer audio happenings, namely adventures with a Hsu research subwoofer, a pair of Dahlquist DQ-20 speakers, and (yet another) refurbished cassette deck.  I will get to these soon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Stereo Review equipment reviews PDF . . .

If I have done this correctly, you should be able to follow the link below to an 11 page PDF of equipment reviews by month for Stereo Review 1982, most of 1985 and 1986, and 1987-1992.  The December 1980 issue of High Fidelity and the August 1989 issue of Audio in there as well.  The PDF shows the month, manufacturer, model number, type of gear and MSRP, along with notes if necessary.  let me know if you find this useful, and I will add some things from the seventies when I can.


I think it works.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

SPARS code follow up on "A Steadily Collapsing medium"

E. was kind enough to provide the following information regarding the all-digital vs. analog recording of cds:

"The debate on the source material or SPARS codes really was dependent on several factors. DDD was a recording produced using a digital multi-track recorder, mixed to a digital 2 track and mastered digitally. Easily the best pop recording of this genre was Donald Fagen's "The Nightfly" with its hit track IGY from 1982. His engineer Roger Nichols was a master of sound, digital or analog. Runner-up was Billy Joel "Songs In the Attic". This was a live album done on the 3M 32 track digital system. Fagen's disc was used all the time at Square Deal as a demo.
ADD was an analog multi-track master mixed and mastered digitally. Some of these recordings were abominations. Mainly because the "hit" analog mix of a particular album was well known and often the artistic intention was changed, as well as the audio. I had a CD of Elton John songs that were remixed in this fashion. Digital or not, the mixes were inferior to the hit versions done on analog.
In the Classical world the Mercury Living Presence series ADD remixes were clearly superior to the originals. The 3 track tapes were mixed by the original producer, Wilma Cozart Fine on the original analog playback equipment from 1st generation source materials. Spectacular. Listen to virtually any of these recordings. I liked Romeo and Juliet and the Frederick Finnell band recordings.

AAD was analog master, analog mix, digital mastering. Quality depended here on the source material used and the analog playback equipment used. One of the worst examples was Fleetwood Mac Rumors CD. Made from a 4th generation tape copy, it was awful.  So was all the original CD issues of Simon and Garfunkel's music. The original tapes had "disappeared" and 3rd gen copies used for the CD. Most of these were improved in later issues. Many AAD discs were masterpieces. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis in the CBS Master Sound version was a favorite. Crazy but Bert Kampfert's early stuff like Swinging Safari or the Beach Boys early albums with stereo mixes were outstanding examples."

I own some Steely Dan, but none of Fagen's solo stuff.  It won't be very expensive to add "The Nightfly" to my collection though:


Looks like the DVD-A version is still available from some sources, but it'll cost you around $79!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Steadily Collapsing Medium

As my summer project of creating a spreadsheet listing all of the equipment reviews in my various audio magazines continues apace, (entered 1987 Stereo Review today, including such gems as the NAD 6300 cassette deck, Nakamichi OMS-2A cd player and Polk Audio SDA-1c loudspeaker), I came across an interesting article in the November 1986 of Stereo Review issue entitled: "Analog to Digital: It's the Music That Counts When You're Choosing Compact Discs," by Gerald Seligman. The article addresses a matter that was being hotly debated in the early years after compact discs were released; are all digital "DDD" discs the only ones worth buying?  For the MP3 crowd, DDD, ADD, AAD were/are labels applied to cd packaging (not universally, mind you) to describe the recording technology used to create a particular cd.  From the inside of my 1991 London cd of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra performing Copland's El salon Mexico, Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, Dance Symphony and Fanfare for the Common Man; Dorati conducting:

DDD-Digital tape recorder used during session recording, mixing and/or editing, and mastering (transcription)

ADD- Analogue (sic) tape recorder used during session recording, digital tape recorder used during subsequent mixing and/or editing and during mastering (transcription)

AAD- Analogue (sic) tape recorder used during session recording and subsequent mixing and/or editing, digital tape recorder used during mastering (transcription)

This particular disc is part of London's "DDD Jubilee" series, which is emblazoned prominently on the disc cover, and that should be indicative of how valuable the "all digital" moniker could be for certain buyers and record execs as a marketing tool.  Not for me necessarily, as I believe I got this disc at deeeeep discount at Tower Records during their last days, probably the Huntington, Long Island store.

Seligman makes a convincing argument that you should pick a disc for its' musical content, not for the recording method.  He even includes a list of recommended analog remasters on CD with the article.  This seems obvious to me.  Something bad recorded completely in the digital realm is still bad (enter your least favorite type of music here.  I pretty much stick with rap as noise I will not buy regardless of how fantastic the recording, feel free to disagree although arguing with me about it is a waste of your valuable time).  I do understand why there was confusion that filled the letters columns at Stereo Review regarding cd recording technology.  it was new, and magical and kinda scary.  Would I get blinded if I looked in when the disc loading drawer opened?  I felt the same befuddlement without the fear of personal injury when MP3 came out, and I still do.  I have embraced the technology for use in the car however, although it still sounds pretty weak in my two channel rig and I have no desire to pursue it there.  Both technologies however, whether cd or MP3 might as well be magic as far as I am concerned, and I think many people felt the same way about cd when it first came out.

Moving on though, perhaps the REALLY interesting part of Seligman's article (IMHO), is the section with the heading: "The LP: A Steadily Collapsing Medium."  Although the reference could relate to LP sales at the time of the article's writing, the author cleverly meant something quite different, and here I shall quote:

"Even with great advances in LP cutting techniques such as Direct Metal Mastering, there are still excursions a cutter can't make and a stylus can't follow.  As a record progresses from its first bands toward its last, the speed may remain a constant 33 1/3 rpm but the stylus is covering significantly less ground . . .  the grove undulations for those extreme frequencies become so small that the very diameter of the stylus becomes too thick to follow them.  Accordingly, a cutting engineer will eliminate some of the highs simply to make the groove inscribable . . . low frequencies can be equally troublesome . . . Computerized cutting vastly improved upon this situation . . .  and although an LP can theoretically offer a greater frequency response than a cd, 10 to 25,000 Hz compared with 20 to 20,000 Hz, again, the question is at what level?"

Seligman provides information from MCA's Steve Hoffman later in the piece, and I for one would like to have a chat with someone at MCA regarding the hideous quality of the first Who cd releases.  That being said, I found the article very interesting in light of the current vinyl renaissance.  I am more than reasonably certain that most of the resurgence is due to image and less to a genuine appreciation of difference in sound, but I don't begrudge anyone the tactile pleasure of using a record player.  Watching the glass platter go around on my Rega is fun, especially in a darkened room with a light shining through it.  But I was always skeptical of the "vinyl sounds better" crowd, especially when they had to rely on the "your rig isn't good enough to appreciate the difference" argument.  Interesting reading, please feel free to let me know if you need more specifics.  In other (very good) news, I may actually get some listening time this weekend, as rain is predicted and yard work will be postponed.  Long overdue are words about the XA-5400ES vs. the CD-S2000, and the TC-K700ES.  We shall see!        


Sunday, May 8, 2016

1986 Stereo Review equipment reviews

Just a quick update- I now have the entries for 1982, 1985 and 1986 Stereo Review equipment reviews entered.  Some great gear available during those years, including the Yamaha R-8, Polk RTA 12B, Dual CS-5000 and the Carver Amazing Loudspeaker.